A Very 2020 Book Club Reading List

Are you looking for book club reads that can help us make sense of 2020? We asked librarians for their recommendations on books that are relevant to this tumultuous year. Fiction or nonfiction, new or old — these books speak to the unique times we're going through.

Do you have other recommendations? Add them in the comment section below.


"The World Ends in April" by Stacy McAnulty (Penguin Random House, 2019)

"As the world seemed to be spiraling out of control in spring 2020, my two boys (age 12 and 7) were pulled from school, the library where I’m the director was closed down, and I was trying to work from home as a single mum in the middle of a pandemic. Before locking the doors and stocking up on supplies I grabbed a book from the stacks that I thought might help my children process the sudden chaos through a fictional narrative they could relate to.

"'The World Ends in April' is the story of what happens when Eleanor Dross, a shy middle-grader, discovers a blog on the internet (written by an honest-to-goodness Harvard scientist) saying that the Earth will soon be destroyed by an asteroid. With the help of her prepper grandfather and best friend Mack (who happens to be blind) she prepares for the aftermath of impact by forming a club at school to teach survival skills and help mitigate her anxiety about some very real problems that are going on in her life — like her father not believing a word of it, for one.

"A great book club discussion starter might be, 'How do you know what or who to believe on the news or the internet? What about information you receive from your own family?'”

— Jenn Carson, library director, LP Fisher Public Library, Woodstock, N.B., Canada



"Wanderers" by Chuck Wendig (Penguin Random House, 2020)

"This modern pandemic tale is unique because those afflicted with the mysterious illness cannot speak or discuss their illness. The book is similar to a pilgrimage and has all those modern elements of viral videos, people seeking community, and also an alt-right religious movement that will keep book groups talking."

— Katy Hite, assistant branch manager, Delaware County District Library – Orange Branch, Columbus, Ohio






"Earth Emotions: New Words for a New World" by Glenn Albrecht (Cornell University Press, 2019)

"'Earth Emotions' introduces the reader to a new and rich vocabulary that describes the full range and nuances of our emotional responses to the emergent state of the world. Albrecht posits that this hopeful vocabulary elevates us from environmental desolation and reignites our millennia-old biophilia ― love of life ― for our home planet.

"Some questions for book club: Consider the author's new term, Symbiocene. How does this term resonate with you (or not)? Can you offer an example of how the Symbiocene is already at play in the world?"

— Madeleine Charney, research services librarian, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst





"The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula K. Le Guin (Penguin, 1987)

"'The Left Hand of Darkness' had a profound influence on science fiction and feminism, widening our collective understanding of gender identity. This story covers the arduous journey taken together by Estraven and Genly. The planet, which is in an ice age, is another key character. Traversing two worlds, their experience is a potent metaphor for these times of uncertainty as we navigate the next chapter in the global unfolding of what it means to be a human being on Earth."

— Madeleine Charney, research services librarian, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst






"Slave Patrols and the Origin of Police in America" by Meru El Muad'Dib Amid (2019)

"Amid calls around the country to defund the police, I chose this book as a contextualizing mechanism because it details how and why the modern institution of policing in America is so sharply and violently angled against Black Americans — often with fatal results. The roots of the American policing system are wholly colonial in nature, and we must start here if we are to understand what is happening now."

— Juán-Pabló González, medical librarian, Howard University, Washington, D.C.






"Ubuntu: Shaping the Current Workplace with (African) Wisdom" by Vuyisile Msila (Knowres Publishing, 2015)

"I chose this selection because right now, nearly every American institution is under scrutiny for perpetuating systemic racism and there are calls for the complete dismantling and re-imagination of many of America’s institutions. While our mission — fostering equal access, diversity, inclusion and belonging for both professional librarians and for our patrons — is a noble one, research data indicates that there is still widespread racism against professional librarians and patrons in public library systems around the country.

"For this reason, our libraries need new, community-centered leadership models. The Ubuntu leadership model will foster an environment that is truly open, collaborative, team-based and talent driven — a place where every voice is a valuable contribution and everyone is in service of our greater goals."

— Juán-Pabló González, medical librarian, Howard University, Washington, D.C.




"Ghost Boys" by Jewell Parker Rhodes Ghost Boys (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018)

"This is a middle-grade novel but should be required reading for adults too! It’s very relevant to the BLM movement as it focuses on unjust killings of Black boys throughout history. It’s written in a poignant, beautiful way that makes it accessible for younger readers. Really moving!"

— Chelsea Price, library director, Meservey (Iowa) Public Library







"Year of Wonders" by Geraldine Brooks (Penguin Books, 2001)

"'Year of Wonders' is a historical fiction novel set in 1666, when the Plague makes its way to London and begins spreading throughout the city. It’s definitely relevant to what we are living in now and may be a sobering read to some. There’s also some romance sprinkled throughout; and it has an unexpected ending. A beautifully and lyrically written story."

— Chelsea Price, library director, Meservey (Iowa) Public Library